April festivals: Sweden’s ‘Witches’ Night’

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By Karen Hart

Find out about a Swedish springtime festival and ask your children to make a decorative dream catcher.

Witches' night

Image by Andreas Fink, from Wikimedia Commons

The ancient spring festival of Walpurgisnacht (Witches’ Night), acts as both a celebration of springtime and a deterrent to any evil spirits that may be lurking in the shadows.

Celebrated on April 30th or May 1st throughout Central and Northern Europe, it is traditionally celebrated with dancing and the lighting of huge bonfires. Walpurgisnacht is quite similar to Halloween, in that its roots lie in pagan folklore and traditions. The festival takes its name from Saint Walburga, founder of the German Catholic covent of Heidenheim, who became famous for her outspoken opinions against witchcraft and sorcery, and who was canonised on May 1st 779. Over the years, the celebration of Saint Walburga combined with old Viking celebrations of springtime and the arrival of better weather, eventually becoming the celebration known as Walpurgisnacht, or Valborgsmassoafton, as it’s known in Sweden.

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